Virginia Tech officials have revealed plans for a more than $225 million Global Business and Analytics Complex to galvanize people who share a passion for an analytic approach to problems that occur in societies, governments, and businesses throughout the world.
Four new buildings are planned on the Blacksburg campus, including two academic buildings and two living-learning residential communities for about 700 students.
The effort leverages strengths of the Pamplin College of Business, other colleges and academic units, and the Data Analytics and Decision Sciences Destination Area — a node of expertise that overlaps the university.
“This is a terrific asset for the university,” said Robert Sumichrast, dean of the Pamplin College of Business. “Complementary causes came together that will give us resources to attract faculty and students interested in business and all forms of analytics. It was rewarding to watch this effort progress. There was a university-level desire to create a data and decision analytics lab and we were working on a replacement for Pamplin Hall and a new building for the business school — and this brings these two ideas together.”
Officials have initiated a feasibility study of the complex and Sumichrast believes construction can be under way by 2020 and finished in 2023.
The two academic buildings are expected to each be about 100,000 square feet and will be constructed in what are now parking areas at the southwestern corner of Prices Fork Road and West Campus Drive.
One of the academic buildings will be the administrative home to the Pamplin College of Business and contain faculty office and classroom spaces.
The second building will feature open work spaces where faculty from all colleges will work on collaborative projects for teaching and conducting research focused on data analytics and decision sciences. The data analytics and decisions sciences faculty cluster has identified the nexus of complex decision-making and high-dimensional big data as an area where Virginia Tech can be a global leader. The facility will support this work through cutting-edge facilities including high-performance computing, interactive data display and decision facilities, high-end human activity tracking and analysis capabilities, and specialized labs ranging from geospatial and environmental informatics to health analytics and collaborative learning and discovery spaces.
The university will request about $70 million in state funding and will raise at least $70 million through private fundraising to build the two academic buildings, according to current plans.
“We are very excited about this project,” said Executive Vice President and Provost Thanassis Rikakis. “People can feel confident that this is a high priority for Virginia Tech and if they join us they are really going to be a part of a positive outcome. It is an exemplar project of VT-shaped knowledge: where disciplinary business knowledge integrates with a diverse community of learning on data analytics and decision sciences that spans academia, industry and community and integrates formal and informal learning.
“We believe that Virginia Tech can become an international leader in the complex nexus of data and decision making; where people, communities and policy meet big data analytics to produce solutions that improve the human condition,” Rikakis said. “We are ideally placed for this since we have deep technical, scientific and humanist knowledge in this area, have a land-grant mission, and are well positioned in data and decision sciences in the National Capital Region: the biggest decision hub in the world.”
Virginia Tech is infusing data and decision sciences into every corner of its teaching, research, and outreach, according to Naren Ramakrishnan, the Thomas L. Phillips Professor of Engineering, director of the Discovery Analytics Center, and a member of the faculty design team of the data analytics and decision sciences destination area.
“We are preparing students to be data-literate and empowering them to use the methods of data science to complement their disciplinary work,” said Ramakrishnan. “Our data analytics and decision sciences planning group draws members from engineering, sciences, business, liberal arts, humanities, and the natural resources, and our goal is to make this complex be an asset for the entire university.”
In addition to the facilities envisioned for Blacksburg, “our goal is to develop similar analytics complexes in Roanoke, centered on health analytics, and in the National Capital Region, focused on technology and solutions transition of our research and outreach to government and industry combined with experiential learning opportunities for students,” Ramakrishnan said.
Across West Campus Drive in Blacksburg, and south of the Inn at Virginia Tech and Skelton Conference Center, two residence halls will be constructed that will also help consolidate international programs.
“These living spaces are really well integrated into what we are trying to achieve,” Sumichrast said. “One live-learn community may have data scientists in residence to spend a lot of time talking with the students, in an interactive data lab embedded in the live-learn community, to give them informal knowledge of what they can do with analytics in the real world. The other would be for students interested in international business and policy and will also support the development of a global community of students and faculty and related activities and programs.
“At Pamplin, we are very interested in explaining how business can be a force for good around the world. Business can generate tremendous wealth and really help people become much more prosperous for the long term. We talk about sustainable global prosperity as the way we want to teach international business,” said Sumichrast.
Costs of the residential facilities are expected to be $73.5 million. An additional $12 million will be used to consolidate and co-locate global and international program services in proximity to the student living spaces.